How many of you get into a “funk” during or after the holidays? Being “in a funk” can happen at any time, but I’m particularly susceptible during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. Part of the reason is because I love this time of year so much; I don’t want it to end. I get time off, enjoy the weather, the pageantry of the season, and time with family. There’s lots of football, and THE FOOD IS AWESOME! It’s really all about football and food, right? “Uh, no Robby it’s not.” I know, but it’s still pretty cool. Okay, I’ll stop having a conversation with myself, and get back to being “in a funk”.
To be “in a funk” is a slang term that means you’re not quite yourself. It’s a mood. It can be a full on episode of depression, a nagging feeling of fear or panic, or melancholy, a feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause.
It’s common knowledge that Christmas is both an upper and a downer. We love it, but it’s also loaded with stress and anxiety. For many it is a painful reminder of lost loved ones. My mom and dad are both gone, and my awareness of their absence is especially acute this time of year. I love my “job”, being in ministry, but I also enjoy having time off. When we spend most of our time being “on” or working, it’s great to turn it off and just chill, but after the holidays it can be a challenge to “turn it back on” again. Plus, having too much time off can lead to overthinking or overanalyzing everything. From a practical perspective the holidays are a mixed bag of highs and lows. It’s a roller coaster ride of emotions which naturally leads to nausea or being “in a funk”.
I know what you’re thinking. “Robby is bonkers!” Which is probably true, but I’m hoping that my transparency will encourage those who are feeling the funk for whatever reason. The Christmas season is supposed to be all about peace, hope, and joy, but for many finding those elements can be difficult and elusive. Plus, there is a lot to do during the holidays, and we can over extend leaving us feeling overwhelmed.
Well, God doesn’t want us to be in a funk any more than we do. He wants us to be in a good place mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. He cares about “every situation” we encounter.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.“ 1 Timothy 1:7 KJV
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:4-9 NIV
If you have experienced depression, anxiety, or know someone who struggles with it, it’s real. The old school method of “pulling ourselves up by our boot straps” or “getting it together” may work for some, but not everyone is wired that way. Sometimes we need help. Sometimes therapy and medicinal treatment are necessary. I’ve been there and done that. Normally, with the Lord’s help and applying a passage like this, I can get out of my funks in a few days or a week, but it’s not always that easy. So, when the Apostle Paul makes a declarative statement like, “Don’t be anxious about anything”, it’s easy to assume that he’s implying that anxiety can be eliminated immediately by making a short declaration. Just snap your fingers and it’s all gone. Also, this is not some kind of religious platitude like “Oh just pray about it and it will all go away”. I’m not saying that God can’t do that, but if your worries don’t magically disappear after you say amen it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care or isn’t trying to help you. Why? Praying is just the first part of Paul’s plan. There’s more. I know it’s an over simplification, but you could paraphrase this passage to read, “Don’t be anxious about anything and here is how you do it.”
The most important part of this passage is a reminder that we don’t have to overcome our worries alone. Paul’s first plan of action is “Prayer and Petition”. Prayer and Petition is basically talking to God. We can tell God what is going on, and it doesn’t matter what it is. Paul says, “but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Yes, “every situation”, not just certain ones. Also, Paul’s use of the word “presenting” implies physical effort. We are “giving” whatever “it” is to God. By talking or having an “ongoing” conversation with God, we are continually unburdening ourselves or throwing off the weight of anxiety. Remember, it’s a process, not necessarily a one-time event.
Jesus himself invites us to “unburden ourselves” in Matthew 11:28.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28 NIV
This passage is particularly interesting because Jesus uses the term “yoke”. Of course he’s not referring to egg yokes. He’s talking about a “yoke” that is a frame or bar that can be placed on one or two people or animals pulling or carrying a heavy load. We don’t see this type of “yoke” being used much anymore, so this metaphor for yoke may be lost on younger readers.
I used to work for a farmer who liked to plow, on occasion, with mules instead of a tractor. It seemed like a lot of wasted effort to me. I mean he had perfectly good tractor sitting in the barn, but I guess it was a way for him to honor or reconnect with his roots. Plus, using two mules or animals instead of a machine is more personal, maybe even relational. There is a different bond between a person and an animal than a person and a machine. Anyway, Mr. Collins would use two mules yoked or harnessed together. He could have only used one, but two yoked together was more effective and easier on the animals. Its kind of where the term “horse power” comes from; more horses, more power.
So why does Jesus use the word “yoke” and not just say, “Come to me, all you who are burdened and I’ll remove your burdens, throwing them into the abyss so you don’t have to worry anymore”. Problem solved. Honestly, I don’t know why, but it could mean that some effort on our part is still required. He is promising to “lighten the load” and make things easier, but is it a done deal? Do we just throw our burdens at Jesus and walk away? I realize that I may be speculating or overanalyzing this just a bit, but the idea of being yoked together with Jesus is just another example of the relational experience that God wants to have with us. In other words, God doesn’t just want to help. He wants to do this “life thing” together WITH us. He doesn’t want us to just walk in, throw our problems at him, and walk away. He wants us to come in, sit down, and have a chat. We can even jump into his arms, have a good cry, and rest awhile. God wants to give us a big bear hug and tell us that everything is going to be okay. He wants to tell us that we’re not alone, and that we’re going to get through this TOGETHER. I don’t know about you, but that’s powerful stuff. I’m getting chills and watery eyes just thinking about it.
I know I didn’t finish the rest of Paul’s plan to battle anxiety, so we’ll do that next week. I just think it’s important for us to see how involved God wants to be in the process. When God says “love me with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength”, He’s asking us to present or give everything to Him, our whole being, and that includes burdens.
Love y’all! Have a great weekend!
Weekly Devotional by Robby Morris, Director of Family Ministry & Facility Coordinator @ Andrews UMC.